On Jan. 31, the Italian government announced a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). COVID-19 has brought Italy into “its worst crisis since the war,” according to the Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte. To date there have been 110,574 confirmed cases resulting in 13,915 deaths, which have included an increasing number of doctors and health professionals who are carrying out heroic work in challenging conditions.
Among the healthcare workers in the front-line against COVID-19 here is Dr. Nasser Alabdulaaly, a 27-year-old Saudi doctor who is on the staff of the ASST Hospital of Lodi, in Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit region. Alabdulaaly, who speaks fluent Italian, described his experience.
“I arrived in Italy in 2011 to study medicine at the University of Pavia, in Lombardy, thanks to a scholarship from the Saudi government. I obtained my medical degree and professional qualification in 2019. I was about to undertake a post-graduate training at the beginning of this year, when the coronavirus broke out in Italy, right in the area where I was living,” says Alabdulaaly.
“When the Saudi authorities offered me the opportunity to return to Saudi Arabia, I chose to stay in Italy. My degree doesn’t qualify me to work yet in the Kingdom; therefore, I could not have offered any contribution to my country.”
“In the meantime, Lombardy region was declared red-zone and in lockdown, the number of positive cases continued to rise, and there was a need for health workers to face the crisis. My hospital internship had been suspended due to the emergency and I was at home for the quarantine. In my silent lockdown city, I was hearing the sirens of the ambulances leaving the hospital relentlessly. It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t stay at home knowing that I could make my contribution, even if small, to the local health service.”
With hospitals under extraordinary strain, Italy increased the number of doctors being recruited and also expedited the procedure for medical school graduates entering the workforce. Many Italian regions made appeals for health workers, and Nasser decided to take up the Lombardy region’s call. The region’s response was not long in coming.
“They were extremely happy to receive my application,” says Nasser. “They offered me work in four different cities: Cremona, Brescia, Bergamo or Lodi. I choose Lodi, even though I knew that, at that time, was the center of COVID-19.”
“I currently work with basic to medium intensity COVID19-positive patients in three different departments. On my first day at the hospital, I was impressed by the enormous workload of the doctors. They were giving their maximum professional and human commitment with courage and perseverance. My colleagues immediately welcomed me into the team, and we soon became a family.
“Working exclusively with COVID-19 positive patients, and specially with critical cases, means that you have to deal with death every day. I have to call their families and break the bad news. Believe me, it’s the toughest side of my mission. Relatives ask you, sometimes beg you, to allow them to see their beloved ones to give them a last farewell. But you can’t allow them. The priority is to protect them from the virus and contain the spread of the contagions.”
“Performing my first professional job in a time when the health industry is facing one of its biggest crises, is challenging and though. But I am proud and honored to give my help in this emergency, and to be in the front-line as part of a team of extraordinary doctors.”
*This interview was supplied by the Saudi embassy in Italy